Saturday, November 29, 2008
Like many people, I was deeply moved by Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 - July 25, 2008) and his September 18, 2007 "last lecture" given before a packed university auditorium. In his intimate presentation, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," Pausch, a terminal cancer patient facing his final days, used his own life lessons and experiences to advise students on how they could also achieve their own career and personal goals.
The other day, as I was preparing the stuffing for the next day's Thanksgiving bird, I was listening to one of my all time favorite Cds, "Peace Like A River" by the Tabernacle Choir. I got chills and my eyes teared, as they frequently do it seems. It was the words, the magnificent, inspiring words that touched me so deeply, and I thought, morosely perhaps, that this CD embodied the themes I would want to leave with my loved ones as my "last lecture"--love God, love each other, have faith, be grateful, and let His peace distill over you no matter the circumstances.
I loved these words and the gentle, peace-giving melody: "So if you're worried and you can't sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep, and you'll fall asleep counting your blessings." How wonderful is that bit of advice?
And how about this to give you courage under fire? "I have faith like a river. . . I have love like a river. . . I have peace like a river. . ." Who can stop such powerful love, faith and peace as that? That's what I'd like to leave for my loved ones as part of my last lecture.
There are so many wonderful messages that can inspire and give comfort, speaking the words we would want to say when we can't be there in person to say them. So I want to teach these songs to my grandchildren and play them often in my home when my kids come back, so these words will echo in their heads when we're apart. Imagine how comforting it would be for a college student or a missionary to carry Mom or Dad's favorite tune in his or her head? Or a passage of inspiring quotes from scripture or a great book? These are the jewels I want to begin dropping along my path, in hopes that a few might be picked up and carried on by those I love.
So what songs have touched your life? Play them often so anyone who passes your doorway will associate them with you. Jot down passages of tender scripture or thought-provoking passages from good books and post them on your fridge or on the bathroom mirror to bring peace to those you love.
And may we each count our blessings instead of sheep. . .
Thursday, November 27, 2008
So, if you've read the comments on the previous blog you know I was wounded in action--not "war action" but in home "improvement action", which for a non-home-improvement type like me is still a battle of sorts.
I was washing wallpaper paste off a wall situated right over a heating vent whose cover was missing. I dropped my rag. (Wanna guess where it landed?) Of course. . . right down the vent. Without thinking, I reached in to retrieve the cloth so it wouldn't clog the vent, What I didn't know was that a nail was sticking out of the floor joists at a downward angle. When I tried to pull my arm out of the vent it became hooked on the nail and I was stuck in the vent.
Luckily, the elders who live here were upstairs when this happened. One ran for a flashlight so I could see what was preventing my arm from being freed while the other called Tom home from his errand. I panicked a little, fearing I'd bleed to death before I could free my arm. (Okay, so it sounds a little melodramatic now but that's what was running through my head at the time.)
Anyway, I was blessed . . . really blessed. The nail was stuck an inch deep into the side of my wrist, but had my arm been turned a few degrees more, the nail would have been directly in my wrist where all those gooshy arteries and tendons run, and I would have been in dire straits indeed.
Last week I had a breast cancer scare with an amazing resolution. Now this. So you can understand my feelings of deep gratitude to Heavenly Father right now. Yes, I'm thankful. Very, very thankful.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Sometimes content-ment just tickles at your heart while other times, gratitude fills its every nook and cranny. My heart is overflowing today. I have good reasons--some are life affirming and mind-alteringly huge--some are small . . . the kind we generally tend to breathe a breath of relief over and then forget as we move on to the next detail of our life. Although who, besides God, really knows what blessing or goodness is small in the eternal scheme of things?
But today, even those smaller, less attention grabbing things are with me, making my throat tight, causing my eyes to sting a little, making me bite my lips a little just so I can write this.
I know people--wonderful, exquisite people--who are struggling this holiday with things beyond their control and through no fault of their own. I'm sure you do too. Why some of us get to walk a smoother path while others travail over rocky terrain has baffled bards and philosophers since time began. Why do some prosper and some suffer? Why some are healed when some wane? Why do some experience bountiful love while others' hearts are parched for the lack of it?
Believers in Christ hold fast to eternal promises, knowing that all things can and will work for our good if we have faith. But a toll is required each time we are blessed with the temporary privilege of walking life's easy road. Paths diverge, and at any moment ours could become the rock-strewn trail.
So I'm trying to get everything ready for our Christmas early to clear the usual holiday prep-panic from my ears and mind so I can better tune to the needs of others. I want this to be a different Christmas--a Gratitude Christmas where today's thankful attitude spills over for a long, long time. I want to be the hands and eyes and ears that do what's needed when it's needful. I want to hold fast to this for as long as I'm able.
I wish the same for each of us, and I hope it begins with a wondrous, joyous Thanksgiving.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I live in the Washington D.C. temple district, and though we have not been as assaulted by protesters as LA and some other areas, we too have had felt the backlash from those who opposed the Church's support of Proposition 8. But let me share a heartwarming story that clears the muck and madness from the issue.
Rising majestically from a knoll set on a bend in the Washington Beltway, the brilliantly white, Washington DC Temple is a landmark familiar to every DC traveler. The radio stations even use it as a traffic marker, so it's no surprise it was an easy find when the protesters wanted to set up shop. Except they picked a really miserable day last Saturday.
Sometime in the midst of their demonstration, they shifted one driveway down from the Temple's lane to the Visitor Center's drive, and soon thereafter the sky darkened, the winds picked up and the rain began to fall like stinging pellets of ice water.
Now some people might have gleefully looked upon nature's timely downpour as divine intervention, figuring the protesters were getting their just desserts. But I'm humbled and awed to report that that is not how the missionaries at the Visitor Center reacted. They did what Jesus would have done. They turned the other cheek. . . and more than that, they blessed their adversaries. How? They carried umbrellas out to the protesters so they could stay dry and comfortable while they picketed.
I don't know how long the protesters remained there, protected by the gentle kindness of the very people they were attempting to demonize, but I was at the temple today, and there were no protesters present.
I offer again these words of Elder Holland. "Something is going to be asked of this dispensation that has never been asked before. [We] must be prepared to present the church of the Lamb, to the Lamb. And when that happens, we must be looking and acting like His Church."
When we respond to the images of angry, disturbing mobs shown on CNN, lets remember whose countenance we are hoping to reflect. The message is love and "no unhallowed hand can stop it". We teach and reach the world best by presenting a living example of Christ's doctrine.
Thank you, thank you to all the strong, gentle hearts who have endured abuse and hurt so honorably in places like L.A., Salt Lake, DC and elsewhere. You have been living examples of President Faust's counsel on forgiveness from his April 2007 Conference. In the face of anguish, anger must be repressed. Despite hurt, there is no room for hate. Teach? Yes. Stand for truth? Absolutely. But we must keep in looking and acting like Christ's church.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
We've been counseled to "Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith." -- D&C 88:118. Orson F. Whitney famously predicted that the Latter-day Saints "will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own."
To that end, an organization was established to reward good, current LDS literature and to promote future authors in their efforts to provide readers with reading material that reaches a high literary caliber while promoting core moral and ethical values. It is called the Whitney Committee, and the Whitney Awards represent the most coveted acknowledgement of an LDS author's work.
To fund the awards, the Whitney Committee holds an auction/sale of items donated by the literary community. Please take a moment to visit the Whitney site at http://www.whitneybenefitauction.com/servlet/StoreFront, and peruse the list on the left column to see the autographed books sets and other items available. Some of these are a steal and would make wonderful, unique Christmas gifts.
Your support of the auction will help the committee promote and reward authors as they labor to produce uplifting, thought-provoking entertainment.
Thanks as always, for your support!
Monday, November 17, 2008
My mom turned seventy-five on election day. Family complications forced us to delay her surprise party until Sunday and it turned out to be a good day. A very good day. And why? The food was good, very good in fact, and unlike some surprise party attempts, this one really did catch her off guard. She also loved seeing so many family members arrive solely for the purpose of seeing and celebrating her. But none of those reasons were the real cause of the day's excitement.
The real enthusiasm felt in each room that day was being generated by our excitement over a book of memories to which we had each contributed. It was simple, really. A survey was printed out with fifteen or so questions that stimulated thoughts and memories of Mom and her many sacrifices for us. Even the most independent and proud family members could not deny the impact this relatively simple woman's life has had in shaping theirs.
For Mom, the book was a reminder that despite have lived what she deems a routine, seemingly mundane life, on a very small stage, she had made a difference in this world . . . that her influence amounted to something far more grand than she dared imagine. She saw that her efforts to return to the classroom in her forties to secure a GED had pushed faltering grandchildren to stick it out in school and get that sheepskin. The many references to her proclivity for hard work and her passion for her animals made her proud to be a farmer, knowing that her work ethic had been passed along. She was able to see how her decision to join the Church and be baptized has changed lives three generations out. And though my little family and I are the only active members remaining, she can see how far the ripples of her faith have extended as grand children's valiant choices have left their own marks on this world, or as they marry and raise their own families, or as grandsons served missions in far-off places expanding the impact of her decision.
It quantified the vast scope of her mortality.
My daughter-in-law, Krista, did a similar, but much more beautifully prepared thing for me when I turned fifty, assembling tributes to me from my children, grandchildren, my husband, mother and friends. None of them will know how often I pull that book down and reread their words of love, but I understood completely when my mother referred to her new album, saying that she now knows she mattered in this life. Deep down she always knew, but sweet words spoken one minute are quickly diluted by another word spoken in frustration, while words on a page last forever.
We all need a little of this . . . a back slap that reminds us that we are cherished . . . a moment when our time on this earth is measured and found enormously unique and irreplaceable. And it needs to be in a permanent form. Not emails or e-cards or e-anything. It needs to require a moment of thought, and it must be written out in hard copy so it lasts, with a little embellishment that punctuates the words' meaning. We need to return to the diminishing art of communicating our love and gratitude for the wonderful people in our lives.
So today, buy a card, a really pretty or funny card and send it someone . . . for no particular reason other than to tell them what they mean to you. Then tell me how you felt as you stuck it in the mailbox. I'd love to hear!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
This article so impressed me, I decided to post it in its entirety. We are not standing alone.
John Shroeder; LDS Living
11/12/2008 01:38 PM MST
Though Proposition 8 has caused divisiveness in California and within the Church, one incredible by-product of this campaign has been increased brotherhood and unity among Christian churches. While the LDS Church has been under attack, prominent priests, ministers, and writers—as well as common members—have come out against such attacks and shown their support of the Church.
The following blog entry, communicating such support, was recently posted by John Schroeder, a well-known Evangelical writer, on his Article VI blog:
Proposition 8 is now a part of the California constitution!
That is probably the best news from an otherwise difficult election for conservatives and Republicans. In very large part, we Evangelicals must thank our Mormon cousins for that fact. They, along with our Catholic brethren, were better organized than us and that provided a base from which we could ALL work together to get this job done What more, as we have chronicled here, Mormons took the brunt of the abuse, derision, and even threats of physical harm that came with this effort.
And like us, they have given thanks to the Almighty that is ultimately in control, even if their understanding of that Almighty is a bit different than ours.
I cannot help but wonder how much more thankful we ALL might be today if we had been more willing to embrace these religious cousins a few months ago - but alas, politics is always about governing today and looking forward to the next election.
Said John Mark Reynolds:
“In the battle for the family, however, traditional Christians have no better friends than the Mormon faithful. It would be wrong if that support were taken for granted. We are intolerant of the false attacks on Mormon faith and family. We stand with our Mormon friends in their right to express their views on the public square. We celebrate the areas, such as family values, where we agree.
“A heart felt thank you may not win points from other friends who demand one hundred percent agreement from their allies, but it is the decent and proper thing to do.
“Thank you to our Mormon friends and allies!”
Hard to do better than that. The “Ruth Youth” ministry proclaimed yesterday “International Mormon Appreciation Day.” Very appropriate, yet still inadequate.
In addition to our thanks, Mormons deserve our protection. They have been oppressed in ways during the Prop 8 campaign that this nation has not seen since the 1960’s and the civil rights movement. The rhetoric has been deplorable, but moreover. we have seen instances of vandalism, property destruction, and some leaders in the fight currently find themselves with armed protection because of the threats made against them and their families.
Our nation will not and cannot tolerate this sort of behavior - it is incumbent on all of us to stand against it, and the best way to do that is to stand between the Mormons and the forces that would perpetrate such evil.
Now I am sure the Mormons can, and probably want, to take care of themselves, but as a Christian, it is my duty to protect the innocent and free the oppressed. To turn a blind eye in this circumstance is not only ungracious, it is simply un-Christian.
Make all the theological distinctions you want, but in the political arena we are yoked with the Mormons (he said borrowing some religious imagery) and it is darn well time we started acting like it.
Absolutely, positively thank the Mormons - but don’t stop there. Stand up and be counted against the evil that has been perpetrated towards them in this campaign.
As Christians we can do no less.
Monday, November 10, 2008
I've spent quite a bit of time lately, listening and reading wonderful talks in preparation for a women's conference at which I was recently invited to speak. I've also been thinking a lot about the election and the Prop 8 results. Some people are still angry about the election. Some are filled with hate and no longer feel America is their home. Conversely, some are angry with the Church because of Prop 8. After all this thinking and pondering, what I've concluded is that I have no place for hate or anger in my heart. Resolve? Yes. But hate? Anger? Bitterness? No. My heart has no place for these. There is simply too much work to be done to allow ourselves to be crippled by these feelings.
I think the Title of LIberty was raised again by Elder Packer in October's Conference during his talk entitled "The Test". Americans who understand Democracy also understand that sometimes the pendulum swings away from their position, but the examples Elder Packer illustrated about the Saints and their love of America, despite being denied the protection of her principles, seems prophetic now.
Perhaps it was.
Is there any question that the Brethren knew about the battle to defend the family long before we did? I believe they knew this firestorm was coming way back before 1995 when they drew the line in the sand, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman and asserting that gender matters. The Proclamation to the Family was as much an effort to align us on these principles as it was to teach the world. And in these last weeks, we discovered how critical it was to have unity among the saints on this.
Likewise, I don't think it was by accident that Elder Packer spoke about love of country and passing the test of patriotism, especially during times of adversity. The media foments what they will to drive their numbers up. But listen to the voices of the Brethren who advice us to find happiness in our circumstances, to be unified, to seek peace and to remember that God is at the helm.
Still, there is much work to be done. While Prop 8 passed this round, new battle fronts are being raised in new states. Like Captain Moroni's relentless efforts to rally and protect his people, I don't think we will ever be able to rest from this fight. The American Revolution was a young person's cause because those who began the fight knew they would be long dead and gone before the dust settled on the new republic. Likewise, this battle we fight to defend the family is also going to be our children's battle, and our grandchildren's.
But we must remember what our end goal is. In the words of Elder Holland, "Something is going to be asked of this dispensation that has never been asked before. [We] must be prepared to present the church of the Lamb, to the Lamb. And when that happens, we must be looking and acting like His Church."
As we rise to the task before us, we must look and act like members of the Church of the Lamb. We must be positive and joyful, and we must use our talents, which are many, to allow the Spirit, not force, to change hearts. I am going to work harder on this. I hope we all will.
I discovered this lovely song on youtube. Thank you, Barry Hansen, for inviting the Spirit to teach better than words alone. May we all be united in our cause, which is the cause of love.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
There is no question that the Hollywood establishment has pumped millions of dollars to fight passage of Proposition 8. Perhaps more upsetting is the influence they've peddled to voters, using their status and star power to influence voting and to persuade their fans, (might I say, the electorate) to vote "the Hollywood way".
I've already addressed how deeply saddened I was when one beloved celebrity went on the Jay Leno Show to issue a tearful plea to "stop the hate", her reference to the individuals who are fighting to protect the traditional understanding of marriage. I still can't understand why protecting the meaning marriage has held since the beginning of time is considered a hateful act. I wonder if anyone else would have seen it that way if Hollywood had not named it so.
I don't want to force anyone to do or believe anything. Free will is a sacred principle. But neither do I want to be coerced to call something right when I believe it is not, nor do I want to be forced to legally expand my definition of the traditional, historic, God-given meaning of marriage for fear of legal recrimination.
What happened to the separation of Church and State?
Hollywood exerts far too much influence. By painting the controversial with humor or victimization, what was controversial becomes sympathetic, until after seeing it frequently enough, it becomes the norm. Then, like the frog in the pot, we become deadened to the danger.
When a manufacturer produces something harmful or even possibly detrimental to my family, I don't buy it. When a vendor treats me poorly, I don't give them my business. When an institution betrays my trust, I withdraw my support.
In my mind, Hollywood has done all of the above, yet we give them our patronage. We fill the very treasuries they use to beat down our values.
I wish we could exercise the moral strength to boycott Hollywood--to consider our money as sacred as our votes. We wouldn't surrender our sacred vote to a candidate whose values undermine ours, so why do we turn a blind eye to the agendas of actors and production companies whose goals are so controversial?
I wish we would form an aliance, refusing at the very least, to pay ticket fees for movies or buy products from companies whose ads feature stars who openly, brazenly push these efforts. I wish we'd throw our support to those actors who bravely stand for truth and goodness, sometimes at the risk of their careers.
The next time we stand in line to buy a theater ticket or to rent a movie, let's remember that we're casting some of the loudest and most powerful votes available to us. And let's be wise.